Checking gun permit management


The proper processing of gun permits was just one of the mismanagement reasons that the previous Sheriff Fletcher was resoundingly not re-elected. In revoking the permit of Michelle Rae Wilson who committed murder, it was discovered that Sheriff Fletcher’s department was very sloppy in matching names to do the paperwork checking, so the reports of two different people were credited to only one person.

It has now been almost a year in office for the new Sheriff Bostrom. How is the gun permit processing going? Basically, using our best evidence, it looks like it is going well. Although there are some unexplained numbers.

The first error is to give permits to people who should not have received permits. We rarely find out about those errors. We usually discover those permit errors only when a crime is committed.

The other error is to deny permits from people who should have received permits. The best hard evidence is a court allowing a permit on appeal. When appeal is upheld, our tax payer dollars pays the lawyer’s fees, otherwise the person wanting the permit pays. Usually the cost is about $3000. Marc Berris used to make jokes that Ramsey county was sending his kids through college just based on the gun permit appeals.

Minneapolis attorney Marc Berris used to joke that no client paid him quite like the Ramsey County sheriff’s office. For years, Berris made a killing by taking on former Sheriff Bob Fletcher. He brought Fletcher to court on behalf of clients who thought they were wrongly denied a permit to carry a weapon in public. When the judge agreed and Berris won – and he won often, he says – the county would foot the bill.
(Pioneer Press)

However this year there are no pending cases in the court appeal process. Neither the Sheriff’s office nor Andrew Rothman, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Defensive Firearm Instructors has heard of any pending court cases. In the above article, Berris said “Many of the denials have been appropriate, quite frankly.” This year,  Berris has not taken a single case to court. So by the measure of court appeals, it appears that the gun permit process is being applied correctly.

By another measure, the rate of denial has gone down from a Sheriff Fletcher high of 13.5 percent in 2007 to  4.7 percent of applications, this year through November. This is still higher than 1.7 percent state average. So if the appeals process shows that permits are properly denied, then why are Ramsey county numbers higher?

My numbers do not match up to the Pioneer Press because I have a different time period. However, one looks at it, Ramsey county appears to have a higher gun permit denial rate. Judging by court appeals, it appears to a higher valid gun permit denial rate. One has to ask – why?

Theory one is that people who knew they had a marginal case under the law choose to try for a gun permit this year because it was a new Sheriff.

Theory two is maybe Ramsey County is different. This is a very urban county. The St Paul police have a great record in doing pro-active work in preventing gang violence, so maybe people just feel safer. The rate of applications in Ramsey county is much lower than the similar Hennepin county.

Theory three is that people are still being wrongfully denied and just cannot afford the risk of losing the appeal process. In that theory, we would expect some public complaining that is not showing up.

It is a mystery that may not totally be resolved because the privacy of applicants is protected by law. End of the year reporting will give us some general categorical information.

Here is the background information provided by the Sheriff’s department:

Since January 3, to present day:

How many gun permits were requested? 1337 applicants

How many gun permits were granted? 1195 have been granted

How many gun permits are still in process?  82 are pending

How many gun permits are in court appeal?  none at this time, though it is unknown if any court appeals are being planned by anyone 

What was the average turnaround time?  Average turnaround time depends on the applicants background and waiting for reports.  If the applicant does not have a criminal background we attempt to issue the permit fifteen days after receiving the application.

How many total gun permits are active in Ramsey County?  8021 active permits